April 28 2023
  Ahmed Umair

USMLE vs. COMLEX: Importance of Choosing the Right Exam

The USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) and COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination) are two important standardized tests that medical students must take to obtain their medical license and begin practicing medicine in the United States. While both exams cover similar content, there are significant USMLE vs. COMLEX that students should be aware of before choosing which one to take.

Preparing for the USMLE is an arduous and time-consuming process that requires dedication, focus, and hard work. But even with all of this in place, there are some common pitfalls that can trip up even the most prepared test taker. From not knowing the difference between USMLE and COMLEX to forgetting about exam timing, navigating your way through medical school exams can be daunting. To help you along, here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid while preparing for the USMLE.

USMLE vs. COMLEX: What you need to know

USMLE is the standard exam taken by most medical students, including those in allopathic (MD) programs. The USMLE consists of three parts: Step 1, Step 2 CK (Clinical Knowledge), and Step 2 CS (Clinical Skills). Step 3 is taken after residency and is required for full licensure. 

COMLEX is the exam taken by students in osteopathic (DO) programs. The COMLEX also has three parts: Level 1, Level 2 CE (Cognitive Evaluation), and Level 2 PE (Performance Evaluation). Level 3 is taken after residency and is required for full licensure.

While there are many similarities between USMLE and COMLEX, there are some key differences. 

For example, USMLE Step 2 CS evaluates clinical skills through a standardized patient encounter, whereas COMLEX Level 2 PE evaluates osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) skills through a hands-on practical exam.

It’s important to note that both USMLE and COMLEX are necessary for medical students to obtain a license to practice medicine, but the specific requirements may vary by state and medical board. It’s also worth considering that some residency programs may prefer one exam over the other, so it’s important to research the specific requirements and preferences of the programs you are interested in.

What are the Similarities and Differences Between COMLEX and USMLE?

USMLE vs. COMLEX: Similarities and Differences Between COMLEX and USMLE

COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination) and USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) are two types of exams that medical students in the United States must take to obtain a license to practice medicine.


  • Purpose: Both COMLEX and USMLE are designed to assess a student’s knowledge and skills necessary for the safe and effective practice of medicine in the United States.
  • Computer-based exams: Both COMLEX and USMLE are computer-based exams that are administered by Pearson VUE testing centers.
  • Content: Both exams cover the same basic science and clinical science concepts and require knowledge of the same basic medical terminology.
  • Three-part structure: Both exams have a three-part structure that consists of multiple-choice questions (MCQs), clinical case simulations, and clinical skills evaluations.


  • Focus: COMLEX is designed specifically for osteopathic medicine, while USMLE is designed for allopathic medicine.
  • Osteopathic principles: The COMLEX emphasizes osteopathic principles, while the USMLE does not.
  • Clinical skills evaluation: While both exams have a clinical skills evaluation, the USMLE evaluates students through a standardized patient encounter, while the COMLEX evaluates students’ osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) skills through a hands-on practical exam.
  • Scoring: The scoring system for both exams is different. COMLEX uses a score reporting system that ranges from 200 to 800, while USMLE uses a three-digit score reporting system that ranges from 1 to 300.
  • Acceptance: Although both exams are accepted by most states, USMLE is more widely accepted and recognized by many residency programs, especially those in allopathic medicine.

Overall, both COMLEX and USMLE are important exams that medical students need to pass to obtain a license to practice medicine in the United States. The choice of which exam to take often depends on the specific requirements of the student’s program and future career plans.

Who Takes Both Tests—and Why?

Doctors Taking USMLE Exam,  USMLE vs. COMLEX

Both the USMLE and COMLEX are taken by aspiring medical professionals who wish to pursue a career in medicine. Individuals who take both tests typically include allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) medical students, foreign medical graduates, and post-graduate trainees. For allopathic students, the USMLE is required for licensure in most states, making it an essential step in their journey to becoming a physician. Osteopathic medical students, on the other hand, are required to pass the COMLEX as part of their graduation requirements from an accredited college of osteopathic medicine. Foreign medical graduates must also often pass either the USMLE or COMLEX depending on their intended residency program. Lastly, post-graduate trainees may take both exams to demonstrate knowledge and competency in order to obtain board certification in their chosen specialty. Ultimately, taking both exams can be beneficial for aspiring physicians who wish to maximize their chances of success when pursuing various educational and professional opportunities.

Exam Timing

Timing is an important factor to consider when preparing for the USMLE and COMLEX exams. It is essential to create a study schedule that allows sufficient time to properly prepare for each exam. The USMLE and COMLEX are full-day exams, and it is advised that students plan to dedicate at least three to four months of focused preparation. During this period, students should strive to complete a full review of all relevant material at least two weeks before the exam date. Additionally, it is critical to practice with sample questions and timed tests in order to develop strategies that will be beneficial during the actual test day. Finally, on the day of the exam, it is important for students to get plenty of rest and arrive early in order to acclimate themselves to their testing environment. By following these tips, aspiring physicians can increase their chances of success on both exams!

Studying Materials

Studying materials are essential when preparing for the USMLE and COMLEX exams. It is important to select the best resources that are comprehensive and easy to use. For example, students should look for comprehensive review books, online courses, and practice questions. Additionally, students should take advantage of study aids such as mnemonics and flashcards to help them remember key concepts. Furthermore, it is beneficial to supplement textbooks with audio lectures or videos in order to gain different perspectives on topics. Lastly, to stay organized throughout the studying process it is important to create a timeline and schedule regular breaks. By taking these steps, aspiring physicians can ensure they have adequately prepared for their exams!

If Taken Both the COMLEX and USMLE, Some Tips to Consider.

If Taken Both the COMLEX and USMLE, Some Tips to Consider. USMLE vs. COMLEX

It is possible to take both the COMLEX and USMLE exams, but it requires a lot of time, dedication, and preparation. Here are some tips to consider when deciding to take both:

  1. Stay OrganizedDevelop a plan that outlines your study schedule, goals, and deadlines. This will help you stay focused on the tasks ahead.
  2. Make use of ResourcesTake advantage of review books, online courses, practice questions, mnemonics, and flashcards to aid in learning the material.
  3. Utilize Audio Lectures or Videos: These can provide different perspectives on topics which may be helpful in understanding the material better.
  4. Take BreaksIt is important to allow yourself regular breaks throughout studying so that you do not become overwhelmed or burned out.
  5. Set Realistic GoalsBe sure to set achievable goals for yourself as this will help keep you motivated during challenging times of preparation for both exams.

By following these tips and staying organized during your preparation process for both exams, you will ensure success in your studies!

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